Pelosi slams GOP's 'inhumane' border bill

Greg Nash

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hammered the Republicans' response to the southern border crisis Tuesday, saying the GOP's $659 million does far too little to protect the unaccompanied children migrating from Central America.

“We must have a heart, and look into our souls to guide us in our treatment of these desperate children," Pelosi said in a statement. "While we are reminded of the critical importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform, we must do so much more than the Republicans’ unjust and inhumane proposal."

Pelosi lodged a series of criticisms at the Republicans' bill, arguing that it lacks sufficient funding to ensure the migrant kids have secure legal representation and due process protections afforded under current law.

“The Republican bill … fails to provide any resources for legal aid to unaccompanied children with legitimate refugee or asylum claims, and does not authorize enough judges to adjudicate the extensive backlog of cases," she said. "It also poses a particular danger to child victims of gang violence and human trafficking."

The Democrats intend to whip against the measure when it comes up for a vote on Thursday, putting additional pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to rally Republicans amid some opposition from conservative members.

Boehner acknowledged Tuesday that GOP leaders have "a little more work to do" securing votes, but he predicted he'd have enough support by Thursday to send the measure to the Senate. 

“I think there's sufficient support in the House to move this bill,” Boehner told reporters in the Capitol.

Pelosi, along with most Democrats, has been particularly critical of a provision of the border package that alters a 2008 human trafficking law to make it easier for authorities to deport the unaccompanied children. The critics contend that change is both unnecessary and has no place in a supplemental funding bill, particularly with such little time to explore the ramifications before the August recess.

"Anybody who wants to give the administration the ability to follow the law that now exists in the short term, while we consider whether or not we want to change the law, shouldn't be voting for this," Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democratic whip, said Tuesday.

The GOP's package would provide $659 million to help ease pressure at the border through the end of September. The package would send National Guard troops to the border, increase funding for immigration judges and empower Border Patrol agents to access federally protected lands.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), who had headed a GOP working group that provided recommendations for a legislative response, said the package strikes the right balance between processing the migrants "humanely" securing the southern border.

"It would be irresponsible to allow this crisis to continue unabated for another month without immediate action to secure the border and deter more unaccompanied minors from making the journey and crossing the border illegally," Granger said in a statement.

Pelosi and the Democrats have different ideas, saying it leans too heavily toward security, without providing the care the child migrants deserve.

The humanitarian emergency along our southern border demands that we act in a way that honors our values as a nation, and respects the dignity of all people," Pelosi said. "We must treat the vulnerable children fleeing violence in their home countries with compassion."

The House is scheduled to vote on the Republicans' bill on Thursday, just before Congress leaves Washington for its five-week August vacation.